The Latin transliteration of Cha uses an alphabet of 16 letters:
A /ɑ, a/ Ch /tʃ/ E /e, ɛ/ H /h/ I /i, ɪ/ K /k/ L /l/ M /m/ N /n/ O /ɔ, o/ P /p/ R /r/ S /s/ T /t/ U /u, ʊ/ V /v/.
- Overall, the letters sound the way you would expect them to be (standard Latin pronunciation). Note that "ch" is always pronounced as /tʃ/. All letters generally sound the same way regardless of their placement.
- As an exception from this rule, the letter "i" tends to form diphthongs /aɪ/, /eɪ/, /oɪ/ and /uɪ/ when it follows another vowel; other vowels are pronounced separately from each other.
Cha words are stressed on the last root vowel. Most often, this turns out to be the penultimate syllable, or the last syllable if the word ends with a consonant. In a multi-syllable word, when the stress falls in an unusual place, it is sometimes denoted by an accent: á, é, í, ó, ú. (We will do this more often here than what is usually seen in Cha texts, where accents may be omitted altogether.) In certain grammatical constructions the accent is also put on one-syllable words. Stress can play a distinctive role: e.g. compare hoté "when?" and hote "where to?".
Generally, Cha syllable structure can be described as (C)v(C)(C). Out of all consonants, however, Ch, H and V cannot be syllable-final, while K, P and T can end a syllable but are never word-final.
|Chu sattia sati Chau.||I am learning Cha.|
|Panuchatú lupa pankoru kai, Tu harpa lupi Meru kea Tuo kartú chaesia Tú sniti oi ati mou panteo.||The Lord so loved the world...|
|Hi ká pantuesípao. Ka onpehárpao pantuesiti ka lopi, kenausanpi e latkipi.||This language has been featured. Due to its quality, plausibility and usability, it has been selected as featured.|
Cha has a very simple and regular grammar.
Cha is an SVO language. Verbs are placed after the subject, adjectives follow the noun, and adverbs follow the verb.
It is not uncommon, however, to place a word or phrase in front of the sentence for additional emphasis. E.g. one would say Kasunoté chu mia kasphaohute (Today I am going to the store) instead of Chu mia kasphaohute kasunoté (I am going to the store today).
Cha adjectives are virtually indistinguishable from intransitive verbs.
Cha makes an extensive use of supines and subordinate clauses.
A Cha noun has four cases, each marked with its distinctive ending. Cha nouns have no genders.
A noun in Nominative has zero ending: su (water), chunotó (toy), punsé (tree), kochekemichas (airplane). Note that with words in Nominative, the stress is always on the last syllable.
Nominative is used for the subjects of a sentence or a subordinate clause. Nominative is also used when two nouns are linked with the copula oa: Ku oa men chu sípao sorsunoté! -- You are the man I saw yesterday!
A noun in the Accusative case receives the ending -u: sú, chunotou, punseu, kochekemichasu. Note that if the word root already ends with -u, u is not doubled but instead it receives the accent mark.
Accusative denotes the direct object of a transitive verb, and follows the verb. In composite verbs (and the majority of verbs in Cha are composite) the signature of the verb is defined by its last (main) root: whatever object the root-verb takes will also be the object of the composite verb.
For example, the verb mia (to move) may take an object—the thing that is being moved. Therefore, the composite verb chaemia (to think, lit. "to move in one's head") also takes a direct object, and, unlike in English, the phrase Chu chaemia kú (I am thinking of you) needs no prepositions.
On the other hand, the verb sattia (to learn, lit: "to come to know") has the root tia (to come, to become) which in this form is intransitive (the transitive form of tia means "to bring"). Therefore, sattia cannot have direct objects either, and in Chu sattia sati Chau (I am learning Cha) an adverbial is required before Chau. (Lit. "I learn to know Cha".)
Nouns in Genitive have the ending -o. As with other endings, if the root ends with an o, it is not doubled but receives the accent mark. Nouns in Genitive describe other nouns and follow them. They usually are placed after adjectives describing the same noun.
Genitive in Cha carries a wide range of semantic meanings, from possession to having a quality to being related to the main word in some way or another. Overall the range of cases when Genitive is used in Cha is similar to those where you use possessive or the preposition "of" in English.
Cha nouns in Genitive can also serve as a Verb of a sentence, replacing the use of a copula. Genitive in this role expresses belonging to a group, e.g.: Chu meno! (I am a man!), Ka punseo chea (This is a tall tree) etc.
Locative / Instrumental
Locative / Instrumental nouns receive the ending -e.
When used as Locative, it indicates place or time: sue (in water), punseolane (in a forest), kochekemichase (on an airplane), sorsunoté (yesterday), vorté (soon; lit. "in a short time"). Usually locative does not denote possession; e.g. compare Ku athata chu ati taorulanu ká (Give me this book, i.e. for me to have) vs. Ku tita chute taorulanu ká (Bring this book to me, i.e. to my place).
If the location needs to be specified more precisely, e.g. "on the desk" vs. "under the desk", or "near the house" vs. "in the house", Cha uses a position indicator + Genitive to express that: ché taoruo (on the desk, lit. "on top of the desk"), chere taoruo (under the desk), nere huo (outside the house), nertenke huo (around the house), né huo (in / inside the house), hue (at the house). As you can see, all these constructions follow the pattern "at" (expressed as Locative) "position" (e.g. top, under, outside etc.) "of" (expressed as Genitive) original word. The position indicators are grammatically nouns, although they are usually translated into English as prepositions.
To form a sentence indicating an object / person location, e.g. "The boy is in the house", Cha speakers would use the verb ná (vi: "be located", vt: "put"): Nunmen ná né huo. One can also say Nunmen nea hue, using the root ne as a verb with meaning "be inside".
When used as Instrumental, the same form indicates a tool or object with which an action is done. This usage usually translates into English with the help of preposition "with", although not always: Nunmen ká lochana vovuovu-lochanaolae (This boy plays a violin). In Cha, it is interchangeable with a phrase that includes the word lai (using): Chamen tala saraotutirhonu seorure (The master beats the dog with a stick) can be said as Chamen tala saraotutirhonu lai seoruru (The master beats the dog using a stick).
Finally, the same case can be used to denote the actor when used with supine that can be translated into English as passive voice. For example, panto chu siao "everything I see" can also said as panto siao chue "everything seen by me". Such use is not frequent and is mostly unitlized in steady locutions and composite words (more about that below).
Although different uses of Locative / Instrumental share the same ending, it is usually quite obvious whether the place, time, tool or person (actor) is meant in each given case.
Nouns in Locative / Instrumental follow the verb and play the role of indirect objects or adverbial modifiers.
Infixes -t-, -p- and -k-
Three infixes, -t-, -p- and -k-, can be used in different parts of speech and with different noun cases. The general semantic meaning of them is as follows:
|-t-||Moving towards, becoming, entering a state; goal, purpose, effect or consequence|
|-p-||Moving away, leaving state; motive, cause, condition or antecedent|
|-k-||Moving through, being in a state|
In particular, when used with Locative, -t-, -p- and -k- have the meaning of "to", "from" and "through", respectively. E.g. Chu mia hute (I go home) vs. Chu mia hupe (I am leaving home) vs. Chu mia nomiske (I am walking on a path); Karmel nepa taoruru chete taolono (She put the pencil on the desk) vs. Karmel hapa taoruru chepe taolono (She took the pencil from the desk), etc.
-p- and -t- can also be used with Genitive (e.g. huomen chuo "my husband" vs. huomen chupo "my ex-husband") but such usage is much more rare.
When used in verbs, -t-, -p- and -k- form prospective, perfective and progressive aspects. Used in adverbials, -t- and -p- produce adverbs of purpose and adverbs of cause, etc. We will give examples of these in each respective section below.
Verbs in Cha receive the ending -a. As with other endings, if the root ends with the same vowel, it is not duplicated but receives the accent instead. Verbs do not conjugate.
A large percentage of Cha verbs are ergative and change their meaning depending on whether they are used as transitive or intransitive verbs. For example: mia (goes and moves /something/), tia (comes and brings /something/), kela (errs and breaks /something/) etc.
There are no verb tenses in Cha, but there are aspects. Unmodified verbs are assumed to be in imperfective aspect. The infixes -t- and -p- put them into prospective and perfective aspects, signifying the action that is about to start or has been completed. Quite often aspects are translated into other languages using future and past tenses: Chu sipa tou siaotenovue chuo! (I have seen it with my own two eyes!) or Ku kasta paki katou! (You will pay for this!). On the other hand, a narrative like Palsunoté moa koruchamen pala... (Once upon a time there lived a king...) usually does not require an aspect change.
The infix -k- produces the progressive aspect: compare Chu maka sunoteoporomau katé (I am eating lunch now) and Chu má honokanu sunoté pana (I eat meat every day).
The infix -i- is used with verbs and denotes imaginary actions. When put in the perfective aspect, it is used to mark actions that could happen, but never did (subjunctive). On the other hand, when it is used with verbs in the prospective aspect, it shows that the action may happen, оr may not, depending on the circumstances (conditional).
For example: Chu tipia ku tithipi chú! (I would come if you called me!) or Chu patia katou api teu (I will do it if I have time). Compare this with: Chu tipa ku tithipi chú! (I came because you called me) and Chu pata katou api teu (I will do it for I have the time).
Intransitive Verbs as Adjectives
Cha adjectives, form the grammatical point of view, do not differ from intransitive verbs. In a way, all Cha adjectives are participles. They end with -a and go after the noun.
Adjectives often play the role of a verb in a sentence, requiring no copula. For example, losia (beautiful) can be used in Ku nunmelo losia (You are a beautiful girl) as well as Nunmel ká losia roi (This girl is very beautiful).
Just like verbs, adjectives can have aspects: Michas losipa chila e nerekélao katé (The car, once beautiful, was now dirty and scratched).
Another way of looking at adjectives is to see them as one-word subordinate clauses. The word losia is composed of two words, loi "good" and sia "look" and literally means "good-looking". One can look at it as the verb that means "to look good". The phrase nunmel losia can be equally well translated as "a beautiful girl", "a good-looking girl" and "a girl that looks good".
Adverb and Adverbial Caluses
Cha adverbs end with -i: roi (strongly, from roa strong), loi (well, from loa good) etc.
Adverbs are often used with infixes -t- for adverbs of goal or purpose, and -p- for cause or condition. With their dependent words, such adverbs form adverbial clauses that are ubiquitous in Cha. Some of the most frequent uses of such adverbial clauses include:
- with modal verbs, like ria (want, need), kia (can) etc.: Ku kia hiti Chae? (Can you speak Cha?); Chu ria nertenepenti kú (I want to hug you).
- with verbs like tia (come, become), lia (let, allow) and similar: Chu sattia hiti Chae (I learn to speak Cha).
- when you state intent or purpose: Chu tipa siti menmeu chuo (I came to see my father).
- when you state reason or cause: Karmen skaenea lorranuapi (He is not in here because he is sick).
Please note that the adverbal phrase can be quite developed, including a subject, object etc., e.g. Chu ria ku pati katou vorté (I want you to do this immediately) is formed by taking Ku pata katou vorté (You will do this immediately) and turning it into an adverbial phrase by changing the ending -a into -i: pata (will do) -> pati (to do).
Adverbs and Prepositions
There are no prepositions in Cha, and the case system is not that extensive. Where the noun cases are not enough to express the relationship between the verb and the indirect object, adverbs are commonly used as links between the two. The range of adverbs and adverbial phrases used for this purpose is extensive:
Pantú ria sattiti sati Chau (Everyone should learn Cha; lit: Everyone should learn to know Cha)
Hikista chú hí Johnu (My name is John; lit: Call me saying John)
In many cases when is an indirect object in English becomes the subject of a subordinate clause in Cha:
Chu pippathia ku atharti chu ati taoruolanu ká! (Please give me this book! lit: I ask that you give me to have this book).
As you can see, the first part of the verb is often used as an adverb later in the sentence. This is the general practice; e.g. if hara simply means "give (away), let go", the verb athara, made up from ati (to have) + hara (give) means "give to someone". The first part, ati (to have) can be repeated as a part of an adverbial phrase: Chu athara ku ati katou (I give this to you).
Similarly, hia means "say" and tonthia, composed from hia and tonti "to listen" means "tell", and you use the first part, tonti, to introduce indirect objects, like Ku tonthita chu tonti pantou! "Tell me everything!"
Supine and Subordinate Clauses
A Cha verb can be put into noun cases, forming a supine. To do that you keep the verb ending -a and add the case ending after it. For example, má (eat) -- huovon mao (eating room, dining room); chaurá (rest, sleep) -- te chaurao (time of sleep, resting time).
A supine is linked by its case ending to the main word it describes, but at the same time it can retain all words that were linked to it as a verb, forming a subordinate clause. Here are some examples:
Chu sá ku rípau tonthiti chu tonti paltou—I know you wanted to tell me something (compare with: Ku ripa tonthiti chu tonti paltou "You wanted to tell me something" and Chu tonta paltou "I will hear something").
John maka té ventú tuo tíao hute—John was eating when his friend entered the house (compare with Ventú tuo tia hute "His friend enters the house").
The case in which the supine is placed determines the relationship between the main word and the subordinate clause:
- when the supine is in Accusative, it describes a verb and can be translated using the English conjunction "that": Sorpe siaopuo melme sia chu sorttíau. ("From the window, mother saw that I was coming back" or "saw me coming back"); Chu sapa tu sorttítau! menme hia. ("I knew he would come back, said father").
- when the supine is in Genitive, it describes a noun. This noun is "raised" from being an object in the subordinate clause; that is, it is assumed to play the role of an object there. This can either be a direct object in Accusative (tu panesao "a well-known person"; to chu essípao sorté "something I've never seen before"), or an indirect object in Locative / Instrumental (te mao "time of eating, dinner time"; mis noemíao "a traveled path", siaotenovú chu sipao lorpaonu ká skia siti chori "the pair of eyes with which I have seen these horrors can not see any more" etc.)
- when the supine is in Locative / Instrumental, it describes a verb and can be translated using such English conjunctions as "while" or "by" (Melme sia chu sorttíau síae sorpe siaopuo "Mother saw me coming back while (she was) looking out of the window.")
Finally, supine can be used in Nominative, naming the action or quality, e.g. Romia chunpia ("Running is fun") or Losia mortlirta pankor morti ("Beauty will save the world").
Note that if Genitive plays the role of a verb, it can also form supine:
Té chu nunménoo chora chu lua konmau—When I was a little boy I liked candy (Chu nunmeno chora "I am a little boy", Chu lua konmau "I like candy").
Please refer to the "Advanced Examples" for more examples of supine, which is very widely used in Cha.
Transitions Between Parts of Speech
Cha roots do not have an inherent part of speech attached to them; instead, each root word can freely transition between different parts of speech, and often has a separate meaning when it is used as a noun, verb etc. Of course all these meanings are closely related. Let us give just a couple of examples:
|Form||Translation||Part of speech|
|ché||on||Noun in Locative|
|chete||onto||Noun in Locative|
|Form||Translation||Part of speech|
|kela||err (be wrong)||Intransitive Verb|
|Form||Translation||Part of speech|
|nea||be inside||Intransitive Verb|
|né||in||Noun in Locative|
|nete||into||Noun in Locative|
|neo||internal||Noun in Genitive|
This list can go on and on. Most of the time the meaning for the same root as a different part of speech does not need to me memorized, as it is self-evident. (There are some exceptions, however; for example, the word te (time), when used as a verb, means "to wait").
Note that when a composite word is used as certain part of speech, its meaning is always related to the last root's meaning for this part of speech.
For example, the English noun "face" is translated into Cha as chaosó, lit. "the front of head". The same English word can be used as a verb, meaning, depending on context, "to meet face-to-face" or "to confront".
The Cha verb soa, however, means "to advance" and any verb ending with soa is expected to have a related meaning. Therefore, the English "to face" cannot be expressed by just using chaosó as a verb. Indeed, one has to say sotetia (lit. "come to the front") or sousittia (lit. "come to see the face") or a similar verb.
Cha is rife with composite words. Most words in the dictionary are composed by linking together a relatively small number of short "primary" roots.
Cha composite word is a little phrase fused together into a word. The individual parts of a composite word relate to each other using the same morphemes as those used to link words in a sentence.
Examples start with very simple words: te suno "time of light" --> sunoté "day, daytime"; se puna "hard plant" --> punsé "tree"; mel nuna "young woman" --> nunmel "girl"; chas mia "moving jar" --> michas "car" and so forth.
Here we need to stress a couple of very important points that are essential for understanding how composite words work in Cha.
1. A composite word is not "equal" to the meaning of the phrase that was used to build it. Mel nuna means just that, a young woman; it does not mean "girl", while nunmel means "girl" but not "a young woman". Fusing a phrase into a composite word gives it additional idiomatic meaning. You can often guess what that meaning is, and thus deduce the meaning of the word; but, when in doubt, one should turn to a dictionary.
The same goes about word creation: one cannot expect to throw a bunch of words together and hope to create a word that another Cha speaker will understand.
In short, knowing etymology of composite words helps one memorize them and helps to understand a new word one has never heard before. But that does not mean one can skip the dictionary altogether.
2. Composite words in Cha are not just a bunch of roots thrown together. The infixes and endings needed to link those roots together in a phrase are retained in the composite word, making its meaning much more clear.
For example, the Cha word for "learn", sattia, is comprised of two root-words, sá "know" and tia "come, become". However, you don't simply put these two together and let everyone guess the relationship of the two (come knowing? come for knowledge?). Instead, you create a phrase, tia sati "come to know" and only then turn it into a composite word, sattia.
On the other hand, the word for "buy" is composed of two roots, kasa "pay" and há "take". The relationship between those if different: you take things because you have paid for them. Therefore, the phrase that is used to describe this is há kaspi, and the word for "buy" is kasphá.
There are two easy rules describing how composite words are constructed in Cha:
1. The word order is reversed. While in Cha the main word is usually the first, with adjectives following the nouns, objects and adverbs following the verbs etc., in the composite word the main root is always the last part.
2. Adjectives, verbs and adverbs lose their endings (-a and -i) when they become a part of a composite word (supines do not lose the final '-a'!). Those endings, however, are most of the time easily reconstructed (adjectives modify nouns, while adverbs modify verbs).
Let us give you a couple more examples:
tu sarao "unknown person" -->
tira saraotú "drive strangers away" -->
hon saraotutira "guard animal" -->
chas mia "moving jar" -->
mia cheke kó "move through the height of air" -->
michas kochekemia "flying car" -->
The Cha word for "no" is es. When it is used with a verb, adjective or noun, it usually loses the initial 'e' and merges with the following word: ria "want" --> sria "don't want", riao "needed, necessary" --> sriao "unnecessary, extra" etc. The exception to this rule are words start begin with an 's'; with them, the initial 'e' is retained: Chu essipa kú tunotunke pankoteo! "I have not seen you for a hundred years!".
Double negation is possible for emphasis: Ku sipa paltou? "Have you seen anything?" -- Chu essipa stou! "I saw nothing at all!"
Along with es, Cha also has a mechanism of forming antonyms, which consists of alternating the last root consonant. To get an antonym, -n alternates with -l and -r alternates with no consonant. For example:
lua "love" <--> lura "hate"
je "top" <--> jer "bottom"
kela "wrong / break" <--> kena "right / fix"
end so forth. Of course, negatives and antonyms have very different semantics: lura "hate" is not quite the same as slua "not love".
Plural and Numbers
When a Cha speaker wants to say "two chairs", "three tables" and so on, she uses an expression similar to English "a pair of chairs": vu soruraolono, sas maolono (lit. "pair of chairs", "trio of tables"). The numeral is grammatically a noun ("pair", "trio", "dozen") and is followed by Genitive.
Often, especially with number two and with paired body parts, the number indicator is merged with the main word: siaotenovú (eyes, lit. "pair of eyes"), haovú (hands, lit. "pair of hands") etc.
"Plurality", or "multiple" is translated into Cha with the use of word on. So if "a person" is tu, then "many persons" is on tuo (lit. "plurality of persons"). If we merge this expression into a single word, tuón, we get "people". Note that the two "o"s have become one "o" with an accent.
Using the same method (adding -ón) one can form plural of most any noun. Note however that the plural form will be used when it is not otherwise clear from context that a purality of objects or persons is being referred to. In particular, the plural with -ón is never used with numbers or words like "some" or "several".
|III||men, mel, tu, to||menón, melón, tuón, tón|
As you can see, Cha uses the words "man", "woman", "person" and "thing" as 3-rd person pronouns.
The 1-st and 2-nd person plural pronouns have full forms that loosely correspond to phrases like "my people" and "your people"; however, short forms chuón and kuón are most frequently used. Instead of the plural with -ón, one often can hear chuovú, kuovú and tuovú (lit. "the pair of us", "the pair of you" or "pair of them").
Comparative Degrees of Adjectives
The North Wind and the Sun
Chupinokó e Sunoten velhika hotú choróau té vomisomen nereá churheu tíao karte.
The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak.
Tuovú sanhia chaesíau tu hertpata kei misomen herti churheu choróau.
They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other.
Chupinokó koumia sanroi sani kíau, oi té ko koumíao choi men ranuhetpena churheu choi.
Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him;
E ko chapetira patléau chirté. Karté Sunoten chursuna e misomen hera churheu vorté.
and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak.
E Chupinokó via saphiti Sunoten choróau sí tuovú.
And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two.